Retro Baltimore: 50 things we miss

Chris McAlister should be next to join Ravens' Ring of Honor

Despite off-field troubles, former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister deserves to be in the Ring of Honor.

The Ravens have done a good job overall in their selections to the Ring of Honor, which includes Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and several of the old Baltimore Colts.

But there is someone missing. Where is cornerback Chris McAlister?

Of those players represented in the Ring of Honor, especially from that dominating defense in the early 2000's, McAlister's omission is glaring. He is the team's best cornerback ever and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.

"It depends on the criteria," said Ogden, the former Ravens left tackle who was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2008. "If it's just about football, it's a no-brainer. He is hands down the best corner in the 20-year history of the franchise.

"If you take his off-field difficulties into account, it's a little less clear. But my personal opinion is he should be there."

By his own admission, McAlister loved to party, stay out and hit the town. That's certainly not anything unusual for young players who signed multimillion-dollar contracts.

He certainly was late for meetings on a couple of occasions and there might have been times when his late nights on the town hurt him on the field. But it couldn't have had that much of an impact, not from the performances and numbers he turned in.

During his 10 seasons in Baltimore, McAlister had his run-ins with coach Brian Billick but couldn't overcome issues with Billick's replacement in 2008, John Harbaugh.

"The best thing I respected the most about Brian Billick was that we agreed to disagree," said McAlister, 38, who now resides in Dallas. "He knew I went out and wasn't happy about it, but he also knew that when I was on the field I made it a point to work hard, harder than most players. No one could tell me that I didn't work hard on the field."

McAlister has always been his own man. If you jump in his face, he is going to jump in yours. As a rookie, he was involved in a brief scuffle with team enforcer Orlando Brown, which could be hazardous to a person's health, because no one challenged Brown.

But that was McAlister's style. He would cuss out reporters and assistant coaches one day, and then be their friends the next day. I always liked that about McAlister. There were no pretenses.

"I'd go to war with him against anybody," said former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary, selected to the Ring of Honor in 2004. "He was our lock-down cornerback and representative of our attitude where we just didn't want to beat you; we wanted to inflict damage.

"C-Mac was a warrior who played hard, had a super aggressive style and never complained. He was part of our tradition and he never backed down from anyone. He liked to fight."

McAlister's off-field issues really shouldn't be a concern.

The Ravens already have two members of their Ring of Honor with criminal records. Linebacker Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men in 2000. Running back Jamal Lewis was sentenced to four months in federal prison in January 2005 after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors on conspiring with the intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine.

So, can McAlister's off-field behavior be any worse than the Lewises'?

"It's the Ring of Honor, not the Ring of Honor for Good Guys," said former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, now any analyst for CBS Sports. "He has the Super Bowl ring and the Pro Bowls. He should be in."

He also has the statistics. As the Ravens' first-round draft pick in 1999, McAlister played 10 of his 11 NFL seasons in Baltimore, which is longer than the careers of several Ring of Honor inductees. He finished with 343 tackles, 305 of those unassisted. He had 26 career interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdowns including returns of 98, 83, 60 and 51 yards.

In six seasons, he had 40 tackles or more including 71 in 2001. On September 30, 2002, he set the record for the longest play in league history at the time, returning a field-goal attempt 107 yards for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos.

McAlister, at 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds, was a specimen for a cornerback. He could press up and handle big receivers at the line of scrimmage or run downfield with the smaller, faster ones.

These days, McAlister has several businesses he owns throughout the country. To me, he was a late bloomer; a kid who matured slower than other players his age.

"I made my mistakes, certainly not saying I am innocent of some things that happened," McAlister said. "In the NFL, when you work behind that shield, being one minute late for a meeting is like being 30 minutes late. But each week I played against the best receivers out there and go back and check the records — I may have given up seven touchdowns in all those years in Baltimore. I know I'm not in there yet, but if I do get in it would be a great honor."

He might be next in line.

"I can make a strong argument for him," said former Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware, inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2006. "He was a top cornerback in this league for a long time, a great player. He was a guy who made my life a lot easier knowing I had a lock-down guy on the back end. Yes, he should be in. No doubt."

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